The Royal Green Jackets regimental archive arrived at Hampshire Record Office on 13 December 2012. Unlike many of our accessions, it was already boxed and catalogued, and ready to go onto our strongroom shelves. This preparatory work had been undertaken by a museum cataloguer, assisted by a team of volunteers, at The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum at Peninsula Barracks in Winchester, the archive’s home for many years.
The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ) regiment was formed on 1 January 1966, succeeding The Green Jacket Brigade, which comprised The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (43rd and 52nd), The King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) and The Rifle Brigade (RB). The Green Jacket Brigade was formed in 1958.
The regimental archive comprises material from The Green Jacket Brigade and RGJ, as well as the predecessor regiments the KRRC (also known as the 60th), and the RB (known for a time as the 95th), and also some records of allied units. The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry archive is held at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire regimental museum in Woodstock.
The collection comprises about 300 boxes and outsize items dating from the 18th to the 21st centuries, covering most aspects of the regiment’s history to a greater or lesser extent. Photographs, official accounts of active service, financial accounts, lists of personnel, orders, reports, correspondence, maps, music, official and personal war diaries, scrapbooks, sketches, memorial service details and personal items, all reflect the regiment’s service across the world, including most of the well known campaigns and, of course, the two World Wars. All ranks are represented, too, although officers do tend to feature more frequently than ordinary riflemen.
The archive is excellent in terms of date and scope, from 18th century letters and commissions to 19th century photographs of India and watercolours of The Nile; from war diaries from the Great War to more recent oral histories and films. The collection is global in its coverage: Asia, Africa, India, North America, Continental Europe, and of course the UK and Ireland.
Colleagues know that I can enthuse at length about the collection, and can give examples of items from it to suit many topics, from cricket to food. One of the more unusual items is entitled ‘Tracing showing where the body of the late Gen Sir Walter Norris Congreve was committed to the deep’, dated 5 March 1927. Gen Congreve was awarded a VC for action during the Battle of Colenso in 1899 during the South African War. His son was awarded a posthumous VC in the First World War. They are one of only three father and son VCs, and, I understand, the only ones who were in the same regiment, The Rifle Brigade. In 1924, Gen Congreve became governor of Malta. When he died in 1927, he was buried at sea off the cost of the island, and this map has an X which marks the spot.
The collection includes two war diaries which describe the 1914 Christmas truce. Amongst items dating from the Second World War are two maps showing the location of prisoner of war camps made from Chivers jellies from Red Cross parcels and ground-up indelible pencil and a regimental badge made of melted silver paper, the mould being German-issued soap. All three of these items were made by POWs.
To browse the collection, go to our online catalogue and put 170A12W in the finding number field. Clicking on search will retrieve over 33,000 hits. The collection is divided into sections for KRRC, RB, Green Jacket Brigade and RGJ, and then catalogued by time period.
The subjects of many of the photographs in the collection are fortunately named in the catalogue, so if you are looking for a particular soldier, try searching for 170A12W in the finding number field and the surname of the individual in the any text field. The collection doesn’t contain service records, but it does contain personal items and it may be possible to provide background information about an individual’s time in the regiment.
I’ll return to my favourite collection in future posts.
Heather Needham, Principal Archivist (ICT)